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Re: NYT Op-Ed on apathy
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Councilman Fulop has announced that he will present a Redevelopment Pay to Play Reform ordinance at the January 10th City Council meeting. A copy of his press release can be found here Councilman Fulop Proposes Developer Pay-to-Play Reform Initiative

You can make a difference by contacting the Mayor and Council and ask them to enact this important legislation. Contact info will be posted shortly.

Posted on: 2007/1/3 15:20
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Re: NYT Op-Ed on apathy
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Yes there is something we can do about it. Below is our unpublished response to Ms. Stapinskis's OpEd. Later this week, we will post some more information on what you and others can do that will take very little effort.

Dan

Quote:

pazman wrote:
I guess it's a good idea stop corruption in the state, but what can we really do about it?

Nothing ever changes anyway.



December 11, 2006

Dear Editor,

Helene Stapinski?s OP-ED, ?Shrugging All the Way? certainly describes the depressing performance of Jersey City (and Hudson County) municipal governments and elected officials who, as she says, refuse to tell right from wrong. Public apathy is displayed in dismal voter turnouts that allow the current political system to continue through the manipulation of voter blocs.

Where we believe she falls short is that there are people ?yelling at council meetings and writing letters and demanding change? and there have been protests and rallies demanding change. Over the past few years, there have been rallies for crime issues, artists live and work district, historic preservation, open space and parks. The rallies generally have resulted in elected officials showing support and voting yes, only to reverse themselves later or impede the very issues and projects they allege to support.

Civic JC believes that it is not the changing cast of political characters, but the political infrastructure that needs to be changed. We are working to address the lack of accountability, openness, transparency, checks and balances and enforceable rules; conflicts of interest and the influence of campaign finance. We have proposed a model Redevelopment Pay-to-Play ordinance in an effort to remove campaign contributions from influencing the redevelopment process in Jersey City which currently sees elected officials taking campaign contributions from the very same developers and their professionals that apply for irrevocable rezoning and property tax abatement agreements. We have proposed adding the state?s statute on public official conflict of interest to every municipal body and board and we have proposed a model Open Appointments ordinance to open up the process of appointing citizens to municipal boards.

Daniel Levin, president
Civic JC
www.civicjc.org


Civic JC is a non-partisan, community-based initiative, designed to promote good government practices and a comprehensive, positive vision for the future of Jersey City as a ?World Class City?. Civic JC is web based at www.civicjc.org.

Posted on: 2007/1/2 17:09
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Re: NYT Op-Ed on apathy
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I guess it's a good idea stop corruption in the state, but what can we really do about it?

Nothing ever changes anyway.

Posted on: 2006/12/11 4:37
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Re: NYT Op-Ed on apathy
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Quote:


December 10, 2006

Op-Ed Contributor
Shrugging All the Way
By HELENE STAPINSKI

[...]

[...] It?s not the illegal ? or unethical ? actions themselves that are such a shame in Hudson County, but the lack of reaction by the citizens who ultimately pay the price for them.
[...]

Prosecutors can put away dozens, no, hundreds more Hudson County criminals. Legislators can vote to make double dipping illegal. But it won?t matter. Because until we stop shrugging and throw the bums out ? the ones who refuse to tell right from wrong ? the Bobby J.?s and envelope padders and takers will continue to conduct business as usual.

When the culture changes, when all our shoulders are used to carry the burden of Hudson?s reputation, without shrugging, when people start yelling at council meetings and writing letters and demanding change, Hudson County might just struggle out of the muck of its antiquated, corrupt system of back scratching and patronage and SWAG. Until then, it?s double dipping all around.

Helene Stapinski is the author of ?Five-Finger Discount: A Crooked Family History.?


I agree wholeheartedly with Helene Stapinski in her Op-Ed. "Five-Finger Discount: A Crooked Family History is also a must read for everyone living here, particularly those who grew up here.

Posted on: 2006/12/11 2:47
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Re: NYT Op-Ed on apathy
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This is from a Center for Public Integrity article from 2004 by David Dagan:
*******
Many states have rules against "double-dipping"?drawing more than one salary or pension payout?and put restrictions on legislators' contracts with the government.

Most states also have some limit on dual government employment in their constitutions. In at least 38 states, the constitution prohibits legislators from holding specific offices, or any that are categorized as positions of trust or profit.

Still, states vary widely in the numbers and combinations of political and civil service jobs they allow a single person to have. For example, Louisiana prohibits an individual in a statewide elected office from holding any other elected post or employment in state or local government, with a few exceptions. Federal law is also strict. In New Jersey, on the other hand, a 1971 law explicitly protects a person's right to hold simultaneously state, county and municipal elected or appointed office.

Dual office-holding was also caught up in a raucous debate over political ethics in New Jersey this year. Although the Legislature passed a 23-point ethics reform plan, it did not restrict legislators from holding second offices ?and the Senate even turned back attempts to have a commission study the issue. Assemblyman Michael J. Panter (D-Monmouth and Mercer Counties), a freshman who sponsored a bill that would have banned state legislators from holding another elected office, told the Center that the practice leads to "inherent conflicts of interest." For example, he said, a legislator-mayor may favor his or her home municipality over others in distributing "a finite amount of state resources."
********
Link to the article: http://www.publicintegrity.org/oi/report.aspx?aid=378

According to the public integrity website, NJ and Oregon are the only two states where more than 40% of state legislators hold multiple offices.

It is such a conflict of interest I wish that there was more uproar as opposed to the apathy that is accurately described in the article...

According to that website

Posted on: 2006/12/10 19:18
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NYT Op-Ed on apathy
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From the 12/10 NYT Op-Ed page.

Just out of curiosity, is doubling up commonplace outside NJ?

Re complacency to corruption: I first moved to NJ (Hoboken) almost 15 years ago and Russo had just become mayor. In a short time, he revealed what a lowlife bully and thief he was. As time went on, he became more bold with his tactics. For chrissakes, he even tried to run over one of his opponents. I was taken aback not only that he continued to get re-elected, but by huge majorities. Having the feds throw someone in jail seems to be the only way to keep corrupt politicians from elected positions.



December 10, 2006

Op-Ed Contributor
Shrugging All the Way
By HELENE STAPINSKI

THE latest excitement in Hudson County ? news that quite a few politicians are ?double dipping,? pulling in multiple salaries and pensions ? has met with the usual reaction from taxpayers. No, not gnashing of teeth or pulling of hair. There?s no protest at City Hall or public rally demanding change.

The reaction instead is a collective shrug of the shoulders. The fact that double dipping is not illegal ? at least not yet ? makes the shrug even bigger. More than a million shoulders, all shrugging at once, make a terrific sound, if your ears are sharp enough to pick it up.

Having grown up in Hudson County, I have my ears finely tuned. Though I now live out of state, I can still hear that shrug, still hear what people are saying miles away: It?s no big deal. After all, double dipping means only that you have two (or more) public office positions and two (or more) pensions. I mean, there are guys taking bribes in musty back rooms, in well-lighted city offices, out in the open on construction sites even as we speak. A little double or triple dipping is nothing. At least these guys are working ? working hard, I might add. Nothing to raise your voice about.

After I wrote ?Five-Finger Discount,? a book documenting decades of Hudson County corruption and abuse, there was much more of an uproar. Maybe it was a case of killing the messenger, but people from Hudson County protested ? even some of my own relatives complained. How dare I badmouth Hudson County! How dare I say crooks have not only lived in but ruled the place for decades!

There were letters, to me and to the local papers, calling for my head; people showing up at local book readings to argue with me over my description of Jersey City, citizens saying that those were the old days, that Hudson County didn?t operate like that anymore.

I shrugged.

Within months, Hudson was embroiled in one of its biggest scandals ever, the indictment of County Executive Robert Janiszewski for extortion and tax evasion. Bobby J., hiding out as a government informant at a ski resort, had worn a wiretap and brought an avalanche of other Hudson crooks down with him.

One of them was the publisher of the first newspaper I ever worked for, The Hudson Reporter. He was a local developer named Joe Barry. When I read his name in the papers, tied to bribery charges, my stomach lurched; it?s the way most Hudson denizens react when they read a friend or relative has been fingered.

He?s a good guy, I thought. When you do business in Hudson County, you have to grease the skids. There?s no way around it. It?s been going on for a century, since the crooked days of Mayor Frank Hague, a local folk hero. This is a place where SWAG (Stolen Without a Gun) is a way of life; where SWAG feeds you, clothes you and keeps you entertained. You take as much as your arms will hold, and you run very fast.

My father, after all, fed us with the steak and lobster that fell off the truck at his job at the Union Terminal Cold Storage. It was socially acceptable. I mean, who didn?t have a cousin with a no-show job in the public works department? But it?s no big deal, right?

My former boss went to prison. But I thought, and still think from time to time, that what he did was no big deal. Not by Hudson County standards. He was a prince among frogs. The crimes trickle down, or up, depending on how you look at it. And we shrug our collective shrug and forget about it until the next scandal.

Which, of course, is the problem. It?s not the illegal ? or unethical ? actions themselves that are such a shame in Hudson County, but the lack of reaction by the citizens who ultimately pay the price for them.

There?s the rotting infrastructure, the soaring taxes, the lingering toxic waste, the dirty streets, the clean politicians who suffer from guilt by association simply because they?re from Hudson County. All because some jerk is putting money in his pocket when it?s supposed to go someplace else. It all trickles away, dollar by dollar, money meant to make the county a little prettier, a little more respectable ? but instead going to pay for ski resorts and extra pensions.

Prosecutors can put away dozens, no, hundreds more Hudson County criminals. Legislators can vote to make double dipping illegal. But it won?t matter. Because until we stop shrugging and throw the bums out ? the ones who refuse to tell right from wrong ? the Bobby J.?s and envelope padders and takers will continue to conduct business as usual.

When the culture changes, when all our shoulders are used to carry the burden of Hudson?s reputation, without shrugging, when people start yelling at council meetings and writing letters and demanding change, Hudson County might just struggle out of the muck of its antiquated, corrupt system of back scratching and patronage and SWAG. Until then, it?s double dipping all around.

Helene Stapinski is the author of ?Five-Finger Discount: A Crooked Family History.?

Posted on: 2006/12/10 12:26
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